Visitors to the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang are not only enchanted by its imposing natural scenery but also by the unique markets, or the kermis, held in the Dong Van Karst Plateau.

A kermis here is more than a place to exchange goods, it is also a festival, a chance for the locals, particularly ethnic minorities who live in remote and isolated areas, to meet. Many market days take place on Saturday or Sunday. Others, meanwhile, fall on Dragon, Dog, Horse and Rat Days.

According to Vice Chairwoman of the Dong Van district People’s Committee Ly Trung Kien, a Mong ethnic woman who was born and grew up on the plateau, the kermis is an indispensable cultural feature of the local ethnic minority people.

“People here can lack warm clothes and money but they cannot be absent at each market day,” she said.

The plateau kermises in Ha Giang bear their own unique cultural space and feature the distinctive characteristics of the 17 ethnic groups living there.

On market days, when the sun is not yet rising, people living halfway up the mountain or hill go down to the market. The Mong, Lo Lo, Bo Y and Nung ethnic girls from remote villages dressed in colourful brocade costumes create a jubilant atmosphere for the market day.

Plateau people bring bulls, horses, pigs, chicken and other livestock that embodies their hard work to the market.

Coming to the Ha Giang plateau fair, tourists are not only impressed at the colourful clothes and jewelry worn by ethnic minority girls and boys but also their sincerity, friendliness and charming smiles.

Ethnic minority people go to the market for not only commodity exchanges but also to chat with each other after hardworking days. For young men and women, the kermis offers a chance for them to meet and seek partners. After market days, many of them get married and live happily on the stone plateau.

Visiting the plateau kermis, tourists have a chance to study the unique customs and habits of ethnic minority people and can also enjoy popular dishes of locals, especially “thang co” – a stew made from horse meat, intestines, liver and kidney, better served with some corn wine.

To promote the potential of the Dong Van Karst Plateau as a Global Geopark, Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Van Kien said that between 2013-2020, the province will deploy a project to preserve the kermis cultural space with the aim of creating attractive tourism products through experience tours of the plateau fairs.

At present, the department is collaborating with the local authorities to build kermis tourism programmes and introducing them to travel agencies while raising locals’ awareness of keeping environmental hygiene at the markets and developing the values of local specialties, he added.-VNA